From idea to industry leader
Our founder, the late Michael Chowdry, observed in the early 1990s that passenger airlines were losing money and parking aircraft while the limited number of high-gross-weight, long-haul freighters were all fully utilized.
At the time, freight hauling was largely an afterthought in the passenger airline industry. Most airlines sold belly capacity for air cargo in the baggage holds of passenger planes operated on passenger routes. Mr. Chowdry saw an opportunity in the air cargo sector and founded Atlas Air, which began by leasing aircraft to other airlines on an Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance (ACMI) contract basis, also known as wet leasing.
Atlas began operations in 1993 with one aircraft, a Boeing 747-200. During the 1990s, Atlas experienced substantial growth as customers realized the benefits of long-term leasing to meet their demands.
In 1997, Atlas placed an order for 10 new, more advanced Boeing 747-400 freighters, with an option to purchase up to 10 more. By 1998, demand for its services was so strong that Atlas increased its order to 12 Boeing 747-400Fs. By the end of 2000, the Atlas fleet had grown to a total of 36 aircraft.
In February 2001, Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings formed its current holding-company structure with Atlas Air as a wholly owned subsidiary. In November of that year, AAWW acquired Polar Air Cargo, Inc., an all-cargo, scheduled-service carrier, from GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS). The acquisition added global, scheduled-service operations to AAWW’s existing portfolio of products.
After restructuring in 2004, the company began trading on NASDAQ as AAWW in 2006 and was also named to the Russell 2000 Index. In September 2006, the company launched a generational re-fleeting initiative by entering an order for new-technology Boeing 747-8 freighters.
In 2007, Polar closed on a strategic transaction with DHL Express that gives DHL a 49% equity interest, including a 25% voting interest, in Polar. This landmark transaction, in turn, provides DHL Express guaranteed capacity on key trade lanes while AAWW gains a valuable long-term customer, securing a strong revenue stream and further reducing both fuel and commercial risks through a long-term ACMI agreement.
In 2011, Atlas Air took delivery of its first three next-generation Boeing 747-8 freighters. We also initiated a new 767 passenger- and cargo-aircraft operating platform, expanding our operations into an attractive gauge of aircraft.
In January 2012, Atlas Air secured extremely attractive Ex-Im Bank-backed financing for six additional 747-8Fs - financing that provided significant savings in its ownership cost for these assets. Atlas took delivery of four of these 747-8Fs in 2012 and two in 2013.
Atlas Air Worldwide also joined the S&P SmallCap 600 index in 2013. In addition, our Titan dry leasing subsidiary acquired the company's first three Boeing 777 freighters, and added three more 777s to its fleet in early 2014.
Today, Atlas Air Worldwide is the leading global provider of outsourced aircraft and aviation operating services. We are proud to be the world's largest operator of Boeing 747 freighter aircraft, as well as Boeing 747 and 767 passenger aircraft and Boeing 767 freighters. We are the only outsource provider that offers Boeing's new 747-8 freighter. And we now dry lease Boeing 777 freighters to leading carriers in the airfreight industry.
With a transformed business model, diversified business mix, expanding CMI and passenger-charter operations, business productivity gains achieved through our Continuous Improvement initiatives, and a strong balance sheet, we are well-positioned to deliver value to our customers and drive future revenues, earnings, and cash flow for our stockholders.